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The File on H Hardcover – Feb 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559704012
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559704014
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,968,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Kadare combines metaphysical inquiry with social realism . . . [and] a comic touch, though one dark and penetrating in the manner of Samuel Beckett's fiction. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A haunting yet humorous evocation of a society dangerously trapped in its past. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
In the 1930's two American scholars, Parry and Lord, went to Yugoslavia to record local bards' recitations of epic poetry. Their results influenced the way oral compositions in literature were viewed, and in particular Homer's works. This book imagines two similar academics coming to rural Northern Albania around the same time to record the equivalent Albanian epics. They are welcomed by local dignitaries, but also spied on. Their new-tech tape-recorder is considered spooky and dangerous. There is ethnic tension in nearby Kosovo. The bards are in short supply as the tradition is on the point of dying out. And one of the academics seems to be going blind, like Homer.

The novel, written in 1981, contains satire on pretensions among the local bourgeoisie, on the 'backwardness' of Albania in general and on its then-pervasive culture of informers, as well as some heavier humour of the frustrated-wife type. Some of it's written as the elaborately-conceited reports of one of the spies, a joke that got tiresome to me. There are interesting thoughts about orality and epic, despite lots of static scenes with characters thinking the same things they've thought before, and a rather thin plot. It seems to have been translated from Albanian via French, and now and then ('she had had an adventure with one of them') I thought I could detect this. But I liked its unusual setting, and the poignancy of its wider subject - the final, slow death of the earliest kind of European literature - really comes across.
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Format: Paperback
In this outwardly simple tale, acclaimed Albanian author Ismail Kadare mixes satire and scholarship and offers a glimpse into 1930s provincial life in an Albania ruled over by the despotic King Zog. Written in Tirana in 1981 when Albania was being ruled by the equally repressive regime of Enver Hoxha, the parallels were too close for comfort and by the end of the 1980s Kadare had fled to France.
Two Irish-American scholars from Harvard, Bill Ross and Max Norton, arrive in Albania to study the tradition of oral epic poetry. Armed with the newly-invented tape-recorder, they hope to record the last genuine rhapsodes, itinerant singers who recite the epics at weddings and funerals and other such events, to the accompaniment of a single-stringed instrument called the lahuta. By comparing different versions of the epics, they hope to discover how such poems are preserved and passed on through the ages. The answers, they hope, will shed light on the question of whether Homer (the H of the title) was the single author many assume him to be, or whether his was simply the name given to a collective.
Suspected of being spies, the two are closely monitored by the somewhat bemused Governor's agents, as they set up their base in a remote inn at the crossroads of two major highways where they can expect to meet some of the last remaining rhapsodes. All goes well at first. The rhapsodes are willing to cooperate and Ross and Norton start to collect their recordings. However, this is the Balkans, and they cannot escape local politics. Matters do not proceed quite as they wish.
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By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 April 2006
Format: Paperback
The H of the title is Homer (of Odyssey and Iliad fame), and the central figures of this tragicomic satire are two Harvard researchers who arrive in Albania during the reign of King Zog (1930s) to study the oral epic tradition and its relation to Homer. Armed with the newly invented reel-to-reel tape recorder, they set themselves up a remote region where they will convince passing "rhapsodes" to recite epics into the tape recorder for later analysis. Alas, the idea of this is so preposterous to the paranoid Albanian authorities that they assume the two researchers are spies, and so order the governor of the remote province to keep a close eye on them. He, in turn, enlists the services of his most trusted informer, Dull Baxhaja, whose florid reports are the primary enlivener of the governor's dull days.
Somewhat wacky hijinks ensue, as the governor's wife dreams of a romantic assignation with one of the researchers, and Dull's reports grow more and more darkly comic. Originally written in 1981, the book is eerily prescient with regard to contemporary nationalist Balkan politics, as a wandering Serbian monk enters the story, takes umbrage that the researchers are not interested in Serbian epics, and stirs up trouble for them. At the same time, the theme of paranoia and emphasis on the rivalry between various informers is itself a satire on the grim nature of Communist Albania under the Hoxhas. Amidst all this, Kadare is also trying to say something about the elusive nature of art and historical memory. The overall effect is a little muddled, but not unenjoyable.
Note: The novel grew out of Kadare's 1970 meeting in the with Albert Lord, a notable scholar of oral epics who told Kadare of his travels in the former Yugoslavia as the assistant to Milman Parry during 1933-35.
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